Month 7 Day 15
Smitty adjusted his dress uniform collar as he exited the lift and headed for the newly designated ‘transport room’. He'd rather travel by transport box, but since the Yukosk weren’t set up for that method, he'd have to trust their transport beam. He refused to think about what could go wrong by considering the new paper he and S’thyme had received.
It’s obviously Colleen’s idea. I remember that conversation in sickbay about the bio-scanners and how they might be modified to sound an alarm if the wrong person entered. Winthrop’s intrusion bothered her, but I thought she’d forget. Apparently, she didn’t.
It might work, as long as the biochemistry is right. At least Kolla included Dr Davis, since it involves human biochemistry.
Smitty entered the briefing room, where Lt Bugalu had his hands all over Colleen. On her shoulders, at least. “Stop fidgeting,” Bugalu told the redhead.
“Can’t,” Colleen replied. “Mixed emotions make me… nervous.”
“You’ll wrinkle your uniform,” Bugalu chided, and his hands slid down her back. “I don’t see any sign of you ballooning.”
“Good!” she responded. “60 meals, but not a single piece of pie, cake or any dessert. I'm dying for a dessert!”
“Your choice,” Bugalu told her. “I saw you drooling for my pie last night.”
“You were mean, to eat it in front of me.”
Bugalu clucked. “Now a piece of your hair is loose. Let me see if-“
“Where?” she demanded.
“On top.” He raised a hand toward the wayward strand.
“I'll fix it,” she declared, and slammed her hat onto her head as she stepped away.
“Easy on the cover,” Smitty suggested, and when they turned in surprise, he added, “They're expensive to replace.”
Colleen blinked. “Are you coming to tonight’s party, Smit?”
Obviously. “S’thyme asked me to.” He stepped forward to place his hat on the table.
“Not there.” Colleen hurriedly moved his hat to one of the chairs against the room’s walls. “The table was the only place they could be sure no one would be standing when they beam in,” she explained.
“Yes. S’thyme mentioned that,” Smitty said, though he didn’t remember anything being said.
Bugalu retrieved his own hat from another chair, looking young, fit and very smart in his dress uniform. When he turned back, he smiled. “Good evening, Captain.”
Jane breezed past Smitty, her hat squashed under one arm as she worked to fasten the top of her dress jacket. “Good evening, Lt Bugalu. Glad to see you joining us. This could be an emotional evening for Lt MacDowell.”
“She’s already crawling out of her skin,” Bugalu agreed.
“I am not!” Colleen objected. Both Bugalu and the captain gave her a disbelieving look. “What?”
“You're pacing,” Jane stated calmly. “I was impressed by the paper you turned in today. And glad you included a new co-author. Good evening, Dr Davis.”
“Hello, Captain. After working with Kolla, I thought I should visit Yukosk.”
“Most Yukoskians are delightful,” Jane told her. “Would you please fasten this top connector? It’s being stubborn tonight.” As the doctor did as requested, Jane asked, “Did you learn much about the Yukosk physiology as you worked on this project?”
“Yes. Kolla's introducing me to one of their doctors, in hopes we will maintain communications, learn more and be better prepared for the next meeting between our people.”
“Sounds like there could be a medical paper coming,” Jane stated.
Davis stepped back. “I’d like to write a book.”
“Sounds good,” Jane replied. “And thank you. Chef Hamara, you haven’t been off ship in-“
“Too long,” Anna answered. “That woman is gone. Or maybe healed.” She walked to Colleen. “What was wrong with the pineapple pie last night?”
Colleen’s eyes grew round. “I’m sorry! I’ve been eating so much lately, I haven’t allowed myself any desserts! I don’t want to let my uniforms out.” Smitty nearly objected. Her shape is perfect! “Tomorrow, I get a regular schedule, and dessert won’t be taboo!” He studied her face. Shame on Dr Davis for letting a project keep her from sleeping.
“Ask for your piece of pie. C shift saved one for you.”
Colleen smiled. “Great!”
The meeting room had become crowded. Jane coaxed her hat into proper shape and set it on her head. Her attention settled on Colleen. “Lt MacDowell.”
Colleen turned. “Yes, captain?” Jane walked over, her eyes on the girl’s hat, which was 2 cm too low. She picked up the hat, and a stray curl flopped onto Colleen’s forehead. Colleen turned pink. “It’s unruly today, captain,” she muttered.
“I’ve had days like that,” Jane stated. “Hang on.” She stuffed the red strand in among better-behaved curls, then lowered the hat. “Don’t take your hat off tonight.”
“Yes, captain, thank you.” When Jane turned, Colleen stuck her tongue out at Bugalu. Still flirting with him.
Jane addressed the crowd. “This is not official, but... I've heard Fleet is changing our uniforms. That's all I know. Well, I don’t even know that; it’s a rumor. I haven’t heard when, or what they will look like, just that it's in the works.” Smoke started to coalesce above the table, and Jane asked, “Everybody have a translator? And is it set to Yukosk? There will be far more of them than us, and you'll want to know what they say. Or ask.”
The smoke became S’thyme, Kolla, and one of S’thyme’s team, who spoke to the gathered crowd. Smitty’s translator asked, “Is there anybody who needs to be tasted to be transported?”
“Tasted?” Anna asked.
“I don’t think we have a word for it, Anna,” Smitty said. “Their computer needs to recognize each person’s DNA. It’s no more than a thumb scan.” He raised his hand to wave the man closer.
Jane announced, “Anybody who has not been to the surface, gather around Mr Smythe so the Yukosk computer can ‘taste’ your DNA. I promise, you won’t even feel it.”
The team member approached, followed by Lt Bugalu. Colleen jumped atop the table and spoke to Kolla and S’thyme as she offered a hand to the captain, who had climbed onto a chair. In a moment, the 4 of them were fading into smoke.
Smitty's chest tightened around his heart mercilessly. There she goes, out of my life. No, she’ll be back. She passed probation. More than once.
Anna interrupted his thoughts. “Smitty, the man is talking to you.”
“What?” Smitty looked at Anna, then at the Yukoskian.
The man smiled. “Mr S’mythe, your technology is strange, but we did our best. How--”
“You did a fantastic job putting my ship to rights. She's been purring like a kitten.”
The Yukoskian repeated, “Kitt-in?”
“An infant of a particular domesticated animal,” Bugalu offered. “When this animal is happy, it emits a low hum called a purr.”
The native smiled. “We have a similar animal.”
“I'm not surprised,” Dr Davis said. “The more I learn about Yukosk, the more it seems just like Earth. Only different.”
“Kolla says the same!” the man revealed. “Reversed, of course.”
Smitty turned to watch smoke coalesce atop the table again. Two more members of S'thyme's team appeared, each carrying 3 gift boxes. He watched as they got off the table and placed the boxes on chairs. “What's that?” Smitty asked.
“Gifts for Koline,” the man answered. “A surprise arranged by Kolla.” He let his machine 'taste' the last person in Smitty's group. “I never thought about... members of your crew being married.”
Smitty looked at him in confusion. “Some,” he admitted. “Not many. Why?”
The native seemed uncomfortable. “Perhaps I misunderstood the nature of the gifts,” he stated. “If some of you will join us on the table, we can take the next 3 to the surface.”
Smitty joined Anna and Dr Davis on the table, and turned the remainder over to Lt Tall Bear. Lt Bugalu, he noticed, gave the gifts a strange look as he waited for his turn. Yes, what do those gifts have to do with being married?